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TV time for struggling Statesboro Blue Devils
092614 SHS FOOTBALL 04
Statesboro running back Jaylen Davis, left, tries to break away from Brunswick defenders Kam Futch, bottom, and Davonnis Johnson, in this Sept. 26, file photo at Womack Field. - photo by SCOTT BRYANT/file

Richmond Hill (2-3, 1-3) at Statesboro (0-5, 0-3)
7 p.m. (7:30 p.m. Broadcast)
102.9 FM

Game Plan

    FROM THE FIRST WHISTLE: The Devils haven’t wasted any time getting themselves into trouble over the last two weeks. Statesboro surrendered a long touchdown two plays into the Coffee game and fumbled away the opening kickoff against Brunswick. Having a solid first series could help build the confidence needed to put together four good quarters of football.

    FORCE THE PASS: In five games, the Wildcats have attempted just 32 passes. Bryant-Long has only tossed one interception, but also has just one touchdown throw and sticks almost exclusively to short passes. Forcing passing situations will put the beleaguered SHS secondary in a situation where it can thrive.

    ALL ABOUT PRIORITIES: It isn’t hard to find distractions this week. A Thursday game, a slightly earlier start and television cameras will be new to some of the Devils’ younger players. Statesboro needs to brush off the distractions and remain focused on breaking into the win column.

    There’s no good way to sugarcoat it.
    The Statesboro Blue Devils are having a rough go of it this season.
    Last week’s trip to Coffee produced the ugliest loss yet — a 35-7 setback — that dropped the Devils to 0-3 in Region 3-AAAAA play and 0-5 overall. Statesboro is hoping that a slight change in the weekly routine will provide a spark as Richmond Hill comes to town tonight for a televised 7 p.m. start at Womack Field.
    “We’ve talked about how we want to get better with each practice and each game,” SHS coach Steve Pennington said. “It’s time for us to go out there and show improvement. No one is going to feel sorry for us and our record.”
    Pennington is hopeful that his team can take the first step towards getting back on track tonight against the Wildcats (2-3, 1-2).
    While Richmond Hill is far from an easy opponent, the Devils like this matchup better than some previous games on the schedule.
    A young and thin Blue Devil defensive secondary has been run ragged by the spread offenses they have faced during the first half of the season. Richmond Hill’s flexbone presents its own challenges, but is also a more familiar sight.
    “I think we match up well,” Pennington said. “We’re a team that likes to run power. Even though Richmond Hill runs some option, there is a lot of power game that they’ll show. It brings a bit of a comfort level when you’re a little more familiar with the style of play.”
    Xavier Bryant-Long leads the Wildcat attack from under center. He has rushed for over 200 yards this season, but the Devils’ biggest concern will be Ronnie Harris (108 carries, 786 yards, 7 TD).
    Statesboro will also be looking to get back to its preferred offense.
    Austin Kleinlein will return under center after missing last week’s game with a back injury.
    With Kleinlein out, running back Mahlon Williams took over at quarterback. Williams had several nice runs, but couldn’t get much of a passing game going. With everyone back at their normal position, the playbook should return to normal.
    “Having Austin back opens up our play-action passing game,” Pennington said. “If we need to, we’ve also seen what Mahlon can do taking snaps out of the shotgun. It definitely helps us to be able to put both on the field at the same time.”
    Pennington wasn’t too concerned about the short week, noting that the practice schedule had stayed the same, short of the junior varsity not participating on Wednesday as they played their scheduled game.
    “I think that the excitement and change can help us to be focused,” Pennington said. “We haven’t been doing so hot on Fridays. Maybe Thursday will treat us better.”

    Mike Anthony may be reached at (912) 489-9404.